May 7, 2015

In My Professional Opinion: Xochitl Gilkeson

To celebrate Teacher Appreciation Month, we're highlighting how teachers are sharing their professional perspectives both inside and outside the classroom through a series called "In My Professional Opinion." 

Xochitl Gilkeson is an English teacher at El Camino Real Charter High School in Los Angeles, Calif.

My passion for teaching is paired with a professional interest in advocating for Common Core and deeper learning because...

setting higher standards opens up new possibilities for using instructional methods like performance-based learning. While schools have fewer opportunities to build their arts programs or fund student field trips to local theaters, teachers can help reinforce the value and benefit of dramatic approaches to learning by treating the classroom as a theater in miniature. Using performance-based methods in English Language Arts enables student learning to become experience-based learning. We have made room for incorporating the dramatic approaches of theaters and actors rather than just having students reading a novel or a poem silently on their own, without full comprehension of the words. Using acting techniques creates greater awareness of one's own voice and body as powerful resources in understanding the plot and characters.

I am compelled to serve as a leader within my profession both inside and outside of the classroom because...

performance-based learning techniques through the Common Core are challenging students to develop important life skills. They teach students to think of character behavior in terms of likely and unlikely human responses. This type of contemplation empowers students to consider how they encounter different personalities in real life. My students have remarked how helpful it is to watch their classmates prepare for their "roles". They arrived at the paradoxical realization that the best way you form an ensemble is to do a great deal of self-exploration.

As an education advocate...

I meet other teachers who inspire me. When I hear stories about teaching successes or how someone created a fabulous lesson, I experience an instant energy boost. Existing in the E4E community of educators allows me to work on solutions and positive outcomes for my students.

In my professional opinion, it is most important to recognize that teachers serving inside and outside the classroom...

are the connective tissue among state, district, union, and school stakeholders. The more I talk to other teachers through my advocacy work, the more I realize how much interdisciplinary conversations and cross-curricular planning benefit our students. Students are eager to connect their learning with how it will benefit them beyond their school years.